When you’re living on a tight budget, being approved for a subsidized apartment is like finding gold. And for a retired grandmother, it feels especially good to finally feel safe and secure. But this was not the case for Carol – until Open Communities staff was able to help and smooth the way.
Carol simply wanted to be able to bathe in her own tub and asked that it be modified to accommodate her mobility impairment. But her building manager kept stalling. She filled out and submitted the appropriate form in August 2012, but over the months kept getting different answers: “We’re looking into it.” “We’re waiting on the City to approve it.” “The price keeps rising.” This is when she called Brendan Saunders, Open Communities Director of Organizing and Advocacy who worked with her on a different case. Brendan immediately referred her to Viki Rivkin, Director of Fair Housing, sensing possible housing discrimination based on disability.
Carol did not want to leave her home so she knew she had to take action. She reminisced about moving into her unit. “This was the first time in my life I was going to live alone and I loved it. This is one of the few buildings in Evanston that is HUD subsidized with accessibility options.” She continued later, “I don’t like being told no. Especially for something I know I’m lawfully entitled to.” Her persistence must come from raising her six children and several grandchildren. Or maybe it was from her education, CLEP credits or Master’s degree. What we know for sure is that there were only grab bars located on the bathtub wall and no way for Carol to step into it. “For 15 months I was scared of falling. I jokingly told them that I’m tired of stinking.”
Fortunately, Open Communities was able to work with our attorney, Jeffrey Taren of Kinoy, Taren & Geraghty PC, who contacted the building. At the end of November 2013, a contractor from Home Depot came and did the modification in less than two hours. All of Carol’s fear and waiting for 15 months was relieved in less than two hours. The contractor smiled as he left, saying “time is money”.
Carol pondered how many more people there are who need accessible apartments like her. “I’m smiling now,” she said. And she told the building managers to “keep [her] smiling” because she isn’t ready for a nursing home or assisted living yet.
As Carol was photographed for this story, she spoke of her 3 year-old grandson, Joseph, named after her mother Josephine. “Last night on the phone I told Joseph to give me a kiss. He did and then said, ‘Grandma, I love you more than chocolate.’ My family is all chocoholics; they love chocolate. He must love me a lot. I had tears in my eyes.”
A woman loved that much is definitely somebody that everyone wants to keep smiling.
“The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.”